The Big Question: Who will Cam Newton throw to in Carolina?
I don't intend to pile on, but Carolina's draft class offers both good news and bad.
Let's start with the positives. The Panthers addressed their greatest need by adding a pair of big-bodied defensive tackles in Utah's Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short out of Purdue. It's clear that general manager Dave Gettleman plans to rebuild this franchise from the trenches out. The Panthers were a mess against the run last season, and Lotulelei gives Carolina a plug-and-play starter. Short provides depth behind Dwan Edwards, something this team lacked in 2012.
Now for the bad news: Carolina (again) ignored the wide receiver position. In a draft full of talented pass-catchers, this was an opportunity to add a weapon to pair with Steve Smith, but no. Mr. Smith, who turns 34 Sunday, receives no birthday gifts from the Panthers this year. He'll be asked to go into battle with a group of wideouts that includes Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn and Domenik Hixon. Behind them, David Gettis and Armanti Edwards will battle for snaps.
It's possible the Panthers weren't enamored with any of the receivers later in the draft, but an uneven offseason in Carolina is getting low grades from some because of where this leaves Cam Newton. Building up front makes sense, but surrounding your starting quarterback with dynamic weapons must be a priority. Cam can't do it alone, something we learned a season ago.
- Along with ignoring the receiver position, the Panthers didn't draft anyone to save their paper-thin secondary. The Charlotte Observer reports that coach Ron Rivera has been impressed with a pair of undrafted players, former Alabama safety Robert Lester and cornerback Melvin White out of Louisiana-Lafayette, but that's not going to cut it. There's a lot of pressure on second-year corner Josh Norman to rebound from last season's benching.
- Kenjon Barner has a familiar narrative. After falling all the way to the sixth round, the rookie running back told The Associated Press it "just gave me something to work for ... every day I'm going to remind myself that 181 people went before me." He's a stretch to see much time behind Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams, but Barner was a value pick for Carolina. Keep an eye on this one.